Tim Lincecum

Let us not freak out about free agent salaries, OK?


I feel like people freak out a little bit every fall and winter when the first couple of free agents sign. The dollars get announced and the reaction is some form of “wow, what an overpay!” and “if [Player X] gets that, [Player Y] is going to get insane dollars!” We’ve seen a little bit of that in the wake of last night’s Tim Lincecum signing, with people’s reactions ranging from merely raising an eyebrow to being fully gobsmacked.

I’m in more of the eyebrow-raised camp. It’s probably a bit of an overpay given Lincecum’s performance over the past couple of years (though it is a pay cut). It’s also a bit of a gamble inasmuch as, a decent strikeout rate notwithstanding, there is no guarantee that Lincecum will be a front line starter ever again. Or even an average one. We’re now more than two years past the last good Lincecum season and more than four years past the truly dominant Lincecum still stuck in our head. He could be Barry Zito redux in performance, if not in contract duration, for the rest of his career.

But we should probably limit our response to the dollars involved to raised eyebrows and wait a few months before truly committing to a reaction. Both to Lincecum’s deal and the deals of other free agents this winter. Because the changing financial structure of baseball is rendering the sorts of deals we once considered to be crazy fairly run-of-the-mill these days.

Yes, $35 million for two years is an awful lot of money. But you know what else is an awful lot of money? The $30-$40 million (estimated) each team will be getting each year from new national television deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS. That is, $30-$40 million for doing absolutely nothing. That’s before you add on increases in local deals many teams are experiencing and the overall trend of rising revenues across Major League Baseball. A trend that the San Francisco Giants and their nearly-full ballpark are taking pretty decent advantage of.

We’re not in the same financial world in which we found ourselves in 1992, 2004 or even just a couple of years ago. Teams have more money to spend and, thanks to restrictions on how much amateur talent can be paid, they have fewer places to spend it. It makes perfect sense, then, that the price of an average pitcher with some upside (or any number of other free agents who will soon sign) will be a lot higher than it used to be. As such, the dollars that used to only go to the best of the best will now be going to the middle of the pack. The superstar dollars will go way, way up too.

Despite this dynamic, I feel that fan and, in some cases, media reaction to these understandable increases is still stuck in 1992, 2004 or even just a couple of years ago. It sort of reminds me of my dad who, whenever gas prices go up, reacts as if it were still 1959 and, dadgummit, gas shouldn’t be more than twenty-five cents a gallon. As if the price of any commodity, be it gas, foodstuffs or elite baseball players shouldn’t be expected to rise in the face of scarcity and increased demand.

Anyway: it’s possible that the Lincecum deal will look bad in a few months or a year from now. It’s also possible that this deal is simply what a player of Lincecum’s caliber — adjusting for the short-length of the deal and his status as a fan favorite — can be expected to command. Whatever happens with him, though, we need to remember that player salaries are going up for rational reasons and that the definition of a massive deal in 2013-14 is not the same as it was even a few short years ago.

Kyle Schwarber is in The Best Shape of His Life

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 16:  Injured player Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs is seen in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Kyle Schwarber made a quicker-than-expected recovery from ACL surgery and then, after an Arizona Fall League rehab assignment, was shuttled up to Cleveland for the World Series. But that’s not all he has done.

Schwarber is now the latest ever Best Shape of His Life All-Star. Or so says Kris Bryant, talking to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:

“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going . . . Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable . . .(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”

May as well just forfeit now, Indians. No way you can deal with an October BSOHL guy.


The Red Sox may not hire a general manager after all

Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski talks with reporters during a baseball news conference at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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When Mike Hazen left the Red Sox to go run the Diamondbacks, the Red Sox set out to look for a new general manager to replace him. Now, according to Pete Abraham, they may not replace him after all. Instead, president Dave Dombrowski may just leave the seat vacant and run the Sox all by himself.

Which, to be clear, is something Dombrowski is more than capable of doing, as he has been a general manager for decades now. A lot of this stuff is a function of job title-inflation, with guys in Dombrowski’s position being given elevated titles despite the fact that they are, more or less, still running the baseball operations department like they did when they were merely general managers. GM, meanwhile, has become a less authoritative position in many organizations, making it a somewhat less visible and perhaps less desirable job than it used to be.

Not that it’s totally about optics. The job of running a ball club is a lot more complicated than it used to be, and having one guy who can run big picture stuff and close deals like Dombrowski with another one being in charge of the more day-to-day tasks of the top baseball executive may be ideal. It also may help reign in some of the excesses of the top guy. Dombrowski, after all, may have been a master of a the big deal while running the Tigers, but in a lot of ways the win-now philosophy cost the club a lot of money and a lot of lower level talent. Another voice with a decent degree of power may be useful in that mix. As may a clear line of succession should Dombrowski decide to move on in a year or two.

Interesting times.